The Week That Was
January 19, 2002

The Week That Was Jan. 19, 2002 brought to you by SEPP






6. NEW NUCLEAR REACTOR TO BE BUILT IN FINLAND? Report from Environmentalists For Nuclear Energy (Paris)

1. THE NUCLEAR WASTE ISSUE is on top of the agenda again. For background on the ongoing debate, read the excellent historical background and factual analysis by Will McNamara in New on the Web.



a] Don't ever use the expression "nuclear waste dump." It's the "engineered disposal of spent fuel."

b] Remember that opponents of nuclear power want to close down existing reactors by demonstrating that there is no safe disposal method. [There are at lest three: Central disposal (Yucca); On-site storage; Immediate reprocessing (as in UK and France).]

c] Their highest current priority is to sabotage the Yucca plan by

(i) Setting unscientific and unrealistsc limits on radiation exposures that vastly increase the cost of Yucca
(ii) Coming up with geological and hydrological objections that have little merit
(iii) Encouraging political opposition in Nevada and in Congress,
And as a last resort
(iv) Block the transportation of spent fuel to Yucca by inciting popular opposition.

What should be done:

a] Continue on-site storage and overcome the political objections to expanding existing storage

b] Plug the idea of resource conservation and of the eventual recycling of the spent fuel through reprocessing. Before to long, breeder reactors will be needed to extend fissionable fuel resources into the coming century, and also to use up plutonium now in weapons or in spent fuel.

c] To demonstrate to the public that central disposal is feasible, we should store at Yucca token amounts of radioactive materials that cannot remain at rector sites.

By Matthew L. Wald (NY Times)

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 - FedEx unwittingly carried a package from Paris to New Orleans last week that was emitting so much radiation that the recipient, a company that packages radiation sources for industrial testing, has been unable to get near enough to measure it directly.

But FedEx officials said the fact that the container passed undetected through the company's system did not indicate a security risk, because the shipper and the recipient were known to FedEx, allowing easy approval of the shipment. If terrorists had tried to ship radioactive material they would have failed, the company said, because extra precautions would have been taken in the case of an unknown shipper or recipient.

FedEx never monitored the radiation while the shipment was in its custody. The recipient, the Source Production and Equipment Company, notified FedEx of the radiation after a FedEx truck delivered the 300-pound package to the company's factory in St. Rose, La. The company told FedEx in an initial estimate that the dose at the surface was 10 rem per hour. If that is correct, a person exposed to the radiation would exceed the annual limit for exposure in half an hour, and within a few hours would show effects from radiation poisoning.

The package contained Iridium- 172, which is used for industrial radiography. The radioactive material is put behind a heavy piece of metal, and by measuring what comes through the other side, technicians can look for cracks or other flaws. The shipper was a Swedish manufacturer, Studsvik.


'Myth' of Chernobyl suffering exposed
(Relocation and handouts have caused more illness than radiation, a new UN study concludes)

By Anthony Browne
Sunday January 6, 2002
The Observer <>

It is seen as the worst man-made disaster in history, killing tens of thousands, making tens of millions ill, and afflicting generations to come. Exhibitions of photographs of the deformed victims have toured the world, raising funds and awareness.

Now a report from the United Nations on the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 15 years after the event comes to a very different conclusion. It says the medical effects of radiation are far less than was thought. The biggest damage to health has instead come from hypochondria and well-meaning but misguided attempts to help people.

The report suggests the relocation of hundreds of thousands of people 'destroyed communities, broke up families, and led to unemployment, depression, and stress-related illnesses'. Generous welfare benefits, holidays, food and medical help given to anyone declared a victim of Chernobyl have created a dependency culture, and created a sense of fatalism in millions of people.

"The Human Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident," published by the UN Development Programme and UNICEF, is a challenge to those who seek to highlight the dangers of nuclear energy.

More than 100 emergency workers on the site of the accident on 26 April 1986 suffered radiation sickness, and 41 of them died. The biggest direct consequences of the radiation are increases in childhood thyroid cancer, normally a very rare disease, which increased 60-fold in Belarus, 40-fold in Ukraine, and 20-fold in Russia, totalling 1,800 cases in all. The report says other evidence of increases in radiation-related diseases is very limited. 'Intensive efforts to identify an excess of leukaemia in the evacuated and controlled zone populations and recovery workers were made without success. There remains no internationally accredited evidence of an excess of leukaemia.' There is also no evidence of an increase in other cancers, and there has been no statistical increase in deformities in babies. The only deformities related to radiation were among babies of pregnant women working on the site at the time of the explosion.

The UN believes most of the deformed babies photographed by Western charities to raise funds have nothing to do with Chernobyl, but are the normal deformities that occur at a low level in every population. 'The direct effect of radiation is not that substantial,' said Oksana Garnets, head of the UN Chernobyl programme. 'There is definitely far more psychosomatic illness than that caused by radiation.'

The evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people, particularly from less contaminated areas, is seen as an over-reaction, which in some cases did more harm than good. 'The first reaction was to move people out. Only later did we think that perhaps some of them shouldn't have been moved. It has become clear that the direct influence of radiation on health is actually much less that the indirect consequences on health of relocating hundreds of thousands of people,' Garnets said.

Among relocated populations, there has been a massive increase in stress-related illnesses, such as heart disease and obesity, unrelated to radiation.

The UN is concerned about the corrosive effects of handouts to those classified as Chernobyl victims. In Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, they get more than 50 different privileges and benefits, including monthly payments and free school meals, medical treatment and holidays. In Ukraine, 'victims' get up to $100 a month.

In Ukraine, 92,000 people have been officially designated as permanently disabled, and half of the population says their health has been affected.

'There is an incentive to get classified as a victim. People getting benefits think they should get more and more. They think everything should be done for them by someone else - it creates a huge sense of fatalism and pessimism, which means they don't get on with their life,' Garnets said.

In the largely deserted village of Chernobyl, 18km from the reactor and deep inside the government's total exclusion zone, the UN's report was welcomed among the 600 people who have illegally returned to their old homes.

From Dr. Klaus Becker (Berlin):

There has indeed been a strong tendency to attribute everything bad to the accident's radiation, including increased alcoholism, car accidents, suicide rates, impotence, etc., mostly for two reasons:

1. To attract attention, financial and other support to the region (including actions very close to blackmailing); and
2. Anti-nuclear propaganda among green and environmentalist circles here in Western Europe, but some industry and other political interests not excluded.

All of this had, of course, nothing to do with radiation effects.

I presented a paper on the very negative social, political and economic consequences of the accident in Western Europe at the large IAEA/WHO "Ten years after" Conference in Vienna in 1996. Almost nothing has changed since; just the number of thyroid cancers increased as expected --- with still, fortunately, only a few causalities so far.

[The IAEA/WHO/EC report (1996) indicates that 3 children died, with 800 thyroid cancer incident among 7.1 million Russian people in ten years. Children thyroid cancer death rate is very low.]

Footnote: There was no disaster at Three Mile Island. The Penna. health authorities certified that no one was hurt by radiation. The radiation was less than from the granite in the building where the congressional hearings were held.



The main consequence of the Chernobyl accident is thyroid cancer in children, some of whom were not yet born at the time of the accident. Following the vapour explosion and fire at the Chernobyl reactor, radioactive iodine was released and spread in the surrounding area. Despite measures taken, children in southern Belarus and northern Ukraine, were exposed to radiation in the weeks following the accident, particularly by consuming milk from pastured cows and leafy vegetables that had been contaminated with radioactive iodine. These children were also relatively more vulnerable because their usual diet, in general, was low in iodine. The thyroid is a small gland located in the front of the neck. It concentrates iodine from the diet and blood to produce important hormones that help the body function normally. Thyroid cancer is a very rare disease. Since the thyroid gland concentrates iodine, it is highly susceptible to radiation damage from any intake of radioactive isotopes of iodine.

Fortunately, thyroid cancer can be treated, with surgery, drugs, and radiation therapy very successfully. Children today need not die of thyroid cancer. In radiation therapy, radiation is used to kill the cancerous thyroid cells. This can be done either with an external radiation source or, more commonly, with special oral preparation of radioactive iodine. Because the thyroid will concentrate all kinds of iodine, by giving a patient a carefully determined large dose of radioactive iodine, it will rapidly concentrate in the thyroid and kill the cancerous cells.

So, once exposed to clouds containing very short-lived radioactive Iodine, all young children should be dosed for several days with Potassium iodide that is not radioactive to displace the radioactive iodine that might otherwise be concentrated in the thyroid. But now, here's the weird part. Suppose you don't give them enough KI soon enough and they develop thyroid cancer. What do you do then? Well, according to the IAEA, you treat the cancer with radioactive Iodine, of course! (Gordon Prather)


(Report from EFN-Paris)

On 17th January 2002, the Government of Finland approved the construction of a fifth nuclear power unit. It was an important step in the democratic process leading to the re-emergence of nuclear power in Europe.

The decision was put to a vote and the result was 10 votes in favor of the proposal of the TVO electric company to build the fifth reactor, and 6 votes against. The site is not yet determined; the new unit might be built at the TVO site at Olkiluoto or at the Fortum site at Loviisa; each site already has two operating reactors.

There remains only one step in the democratic process of deciding to build a new reactor - the ratification by the Finnish Parliament, expected in the spring. The Parliament rejected a similar proposal in 1993, but the political climate and public opinion have changed since then.



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